Hypopressive abs by definition consist of generating a hypopression in the abdominal cavity. They consist of a combination of series of postures and a special respiration (apnea), to elevate and activate the diaphragm.
On the one hand they elevate the visceral packet (utero-vagina, urethra-bladder, rectum and intestines), and on the other, thanks to a mechanism of reflex activation, they provoke a contraction of the abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor.
The base of these breathing techniques, abdominal abduction, and reeducation of the posture, existed thousands of years ago and were practiced in yoga under the name Uddiyana Bandha.
Between the 70s and 80s hypopressive abs began to acquire popularity and were known as a stomach vacuum. With the bodybuilding boom, these techniques of respiration and abduccion resulted in reducing the size of the waist to give more visibility to the anterior serrato and dorsal width, to improve the volume of the thoracic box.
In this way, the benefits of muscle strengthening and viscera mobilization lost protagonism to an aesthetic endeavor. Even the well known Arnold Schwarzenegger that used hypopressive abs over a long period of time, now criticizes the form in which bodybuilders build abdominal muscles because they lose muscle harmony.
Hypopressives were introduced again as a part of training by their creator M. Caufriez after finding in his research that classical abdominal exercises could cause problems of incontinence or sexual disfunction. Because of this he decided to apply exercises, around the abdominal area, that could obtain the same result, but without causing any bodily damage.
Two decades after its invention, the method of hypopressives is practiced often in rehabilitation clinics for women after giving birth (and has double the effectiveness of previous exercises for pregnant women) and for high performance athletes for its benefits in core strengthening and improvement in their trademark sports.
WHEN SHOULD YOU NO DO HYPOPRESSIVE ABS?
Although a lot of contraindications do not exists for hypopressive abs there are specific cases which you should take into considerations when deciding whether or not to perform them.
- Pregnant women
Hypopressive abs are 100% contraindicated for pregnant women.
Performing the proper technique for hypopressive abs can bring on contractions in the uterus and can be very harmful for the future baby to the point that it could result in a natural abortion.
- People with arterial hypertension
Not because of the abdominal exercises itself, but because the breathing technique used to perform hypopressives, which includes expiratory apneas that can be counterproductive. If you suffer hypertension and want to perform hypopressives you should do them with the supervision of your doctor and watch the tension and heart rate during the session.
- People with shoulder and knee joint problems
When you know how to do hypopressive abs, you’ll see that there are various body positions. This includes specific position for the arms and knees, that are important to the technique. If you have any joint problems, you should cautiously select what types of hypopressive abs suit you better.
WHEN SHOULD YOU PERFORM HYPOPRESSIVE ABS?
An important note – The following groups of people can include hypopressives in their physical activity:
- Recent mother in postpartum recuperation
The majority of people that practice hypopressive abs are women who have recently given birth as a way to recuperate the abdomen that they had before pregnancy.
If you have read our article about exercises during pregnancy, you know that during the growth of the belly it is possible to suffer diástisis recti where the abdominal muscles separate too much and you lose muscle tone.
If this is your case, remember that you can perform hypopressive abs 6 weeks postpartum and as always, with the supervision of your gynecologist.
- People with recent surgeries
If you have recently suffered a herniated disk o a surgery involving the abdominal zone, consult your doctor before starting any exercise. You can start the process of recuperating muscle tone after the scars have healed with the most comfortable position for you and your abdominal muscles.
There are always studies being conducted about the effects of hypopressive abs on different segments of people: men, women, adults, older adults, women postpartum, women prepartum, etc.
Today we will touch on the most important results that have been found:
- Strengthen the abdominal girdle
To have a strong belly it is important to exercise the transverse and oblique muscles of the abdomen and not just the anterior rectum. To do this, there is nothing better than hypopressive abs to strengthen and tone these muscles without damaging the lumbar spine.
- Re-training your posture
In the modern world, many have to adopt sitting in uncomfortable positions for many hours a day. This not only creates undesired pressure on the pelvic floor, but, also changes the position of several vertebrae resulting in poor posture.
When you learn how to do hypopressives you will notice that the suction effect and the negative pressure in the abdominal cavity apply a pulling action on the two intervertebral discs.
This combined with other exercises is a powerful tool to combat problems with posture.
- Reduces anxiety and stress
Voluntary control over breathing creates a sense of relaxation, as being aware of your own breathing is integral in practicing mindfulness meditation techniques.
- Prevent prolapses
During many periods of our lives when exerting pressure on certain areas of the body we can suffer displacements, or prolapses. For example, by abusing classic abdominal crunches.
The most concrete case of prolapse occurs during pregnancy when the organs shift to make space for the fetus to develop.
Strengthening the abdominal area with hypopressive abs and neglecting ab exercises that include flexion and high pressure towards the organs of the abdominal cavity greatly reduces the possibility of prolapses.
- Strengthen pelvic floor and improves postpartum recovery
After childbirth there is some residual sagging of the belly, while the body begins the process to return to its normal state. Some work needs to be done to retone the abdominal girdle and strengthen the pelvic floor.
Hypopressive abs are critical to postpartum recovery because they not only tone the muscles, but also accelerate the process of returning the organs to their original position.
- Prevents or improves urinary incontinence
During the day the bladder expands like a balloon and fills with waste that needs to be voided from the body. When a relaxed bladder extends to store more urine and the sphincters are kept in contraction there are no leaks, until the bladder is completely full. A message is sent to the brain when the bladder is full to urge you to go to the bathroom.
However, for a person with a weak pelvic floor and problem of incontinence, the bladder contracts before it is completely full and there is an increase in abdominal pressure causing an escape of urine. This can be produced by muscular effort such as laughing, coughing, weight lifting, etc.
Hypopressive abs not only relieve the pressure produced by some prolapses (if any), but also help strengthen the pelvic floor to provide greater control of the sphincter.
- Increases sports performance
When you know how to do hypopressive abs with the correct technique, during expiratory apnea phase (breathing out and holding one’s breath), the body will go into a state of hypoxia, or the deprivation of oxygen. Hypoxia encourages the creation of the hormone erythropoietin, or EPO, that increase the amount of hemoglobin in the blood and optimizes the transportation of oxygen.
This results in greater muscle resistance, as there is more oxygen in the blood. This is useful for athletes who need to have greater resistance to improve their performance.
Caufriez and Riera used the Hypopressive Integral Training and applied this form of training to a triathlete. During this research, physical tests and blood tests were performed to observe improvements at the biochemical level. They found an increase in EPO, as well as Hematocrit, the proportion of red blood cells (in 3.8%), in just 5 days.
- This increased his anaerobic threshold and aerobic capacity.
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These were his new stats after training with this method: On the track, he shaved 11 seconds off of this time in the 500m, moving from 01:31 to 01:20, and 34 seconds in in the 1000 m (3:23 to 2:49). In the water, he was able to swim faster and farther covering 47m in 30 seconds, where he used to complete just 31.5m.
- Promotes sexual intercourse and prevents erectile dysfunction
The pelvic floor musculature is related to sexual functions in both genders.
Because of the complexity of the female genital-urinary tract the benefits are more pronounced in women.
In men, the consistent practice of hypopressive abs can increase in blood flow, that in turn improves sexual performance and prevents erectile dysfunction.
- Increases lung capacity and improves breathing control
The breathing techniques and the control of the diaphragm produced with the constant practice of these exercises gives us better control over the movement of each breathe. During the abdominal suction, thoracic capacity is increased, which results in increased lung capacity. You can better control each movement of the breath during abdominal suction, to increase the thoracic capacity and in turn lung capacity.